With the amount of electronics most people have in their homes, it is important to know about e-waste.  When I look around my home I see several televisions, DVD player, computers, printer, cell phones, gaming systems, clock radio, surge protectors, external hard drive, cordless phone, microwave, digital cameras, etc.  Most people know that electronic waste is bad for the environment, but what happens to our old computers, cell phones and televisions when they are recycled?

Unlike aluminum cans made of just one material, electronic devices are constructed with many different materials, so recycling e-waste is a more complex process.  The most important reason to recycle e-waste is to keep these devices from landfills, but the devices can also be used to save costs in manufacturing other materials.

In general, as much as 99 percent of all materials from electronics are reused in a different capacity or sold:

– Small amounts of copper and gold will be sold and then reused in alternative capacities.

– Some plastic, which is already the right grade for electronic devices will be re-used for such

– Materials can be used to manufacture other products such as lighters or wood composites.

– plastic housing is ground into smaller pieces and used as retaining blocks and pothole mix.

– Circuit boards and chips can be reused to repair or upgrade older electronics or recycled for scrap value.


Some electronics may contain up to 8 pounds of lead

Electronics also contain lower levels of mercury, arsenic, cadmium, beryllium and other toxic chemicals.

300 million computers and one billion cell phones are produced every year, with each having an average lifespan of three to five years.

E-waste accounts for approximately 4 percent of the total amount of trash, but it contributes about 40 percent of the lead content in landfills.

E-waste accounts for about 70 percent of the heavy metal pollution in landfills

Make sure when you are upgrading your electronic devices you look for a local e-waste center to recycle your old devices. 


  1. Wow, I’d never heard the term “e-waste,” but it’s a great one. Really makes you think about your electronics. And this line, “300 million computers and one billion cell phones are produced every year, with each having an average lifespan of three to five years” shocked me!

    We had an electronics recycling day in our town last week. I didn’t have anything ready for it at the time, but your post has made me want to go through the house and find those heavy metals and get them recycled.

    (The electronics recycling day here had a sign posted outside the building, listing the applicable and accepted appliances — finishing by saying “anything with a chord.” Chord, not cord. Like music.) 🙂

  2. Great post! We have always sold our old electronics before they died or just for parts, but I hadn’t thought about what happens to most electronics eventually. They have to end up somewhere. Thanks for this!

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